“If… my people, my God-defined people, respond by humbling themselves, praying, seeking my presence, and turning their backs on their wicked lives, I’ll be there ready for you: I’ll listen from heaven, forgive their sins, and restore their land to health. “ 2 Chronicles 7:14 (MSG)
“Confess and acknowledge how you have offended one another and then pray for one another to be instantly healed, for tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer!.” James 5:16: (TPT)
Recently glancing through an article, I came across the following statement, “We do not pray for revival because we have not studied past revivals, thus we do not know what happens in a revival and therefore have no basis for any expectation of one, and thus no faith and desire to pray for revival.” In many churches, revival is so far back in their history that it’s been either not spoken about or totally forgotten. Yet one website I saw listed some 250 major revivals and awakenings over the past 2,000 years ranging from Pentecost in the Book of Acts to what’s happened in recent decades across Argentina, China, and much of sub-Saharan Africa.
Well, if you do not know what to expect, let’s start to put things right. There’s a saying, ‘you can’t unknow what you now know.’ So hopefully, by the end of this short devotional, you’ll understand what might happen if, by the grace of God, revival occurs where you are.
In the history of the church, the term revival in its most biblical sense has meant a sovereign work of Almighty God in which, across a whole region of many churches, many Christians have been lifted out of spiritual indifference and worldliness into the conviction of their sin. They now earnestly desire more of Christ and His Word, boldness in their witness, purity in their life, many conversions, joyful worship and praise, and a renewed commitment to evangelism and missions. You deeply feel God has moved here!
One minister describing revival in his church “We have had more answers to prayer in one week than we normally have in years!” During revival, answered prayers happen at such a pace that people dare to offer their “God-sized” requests. They believe, and they receive. It is great to experience “church” when Christians anticipate supernatural results. People can’t wait to attend church because nobody knows what will happen next!
Faith is generated as God’s people hear and heed His Word. They’re not just analysing sermons. God is speaking, and their anticipation level is rising. One church leader commented, “We just knew God was going to do something unusual.” It’s a taste of heaven to operate in a climate where people believe and expect God to move in their midst.
Churches in revival clearly recognise that they have committed “corporate sins” which require repentance. Such might be prayerlessness and relying on activity and ministry; even a superficiality with God and with one another; or involvement in programmatic or non-Spirit-led worship; it could be a preoccupation with money and stuff; or an overlooking sin and failing to practice biblical church discipline; even lukewarmness, apathy and lack of commitment. So in revival, each of these needs is confessed and addressed.
Revival will change your church! Spiritual coldness, resistance and bitterness will be things of the past. People will become open, transparent, and humble before God and each other. It will bring you to a place of greater usefulness to the Lord, a place of holiness, a new place of commitment and devotion to the lordship of Jesus Christ. You’ll also recognise that the process of seeking the Lord never ends. You’ll continue to pray that God will do a fresh work in each of us so that we’re walking in the fullness of His joy and being used for His glory to the ends of the earth.
“For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15 (NIV)
The testimony of another minister gives us a more comprehensive picture of what we might expect if God in His grace and mercy, brought revival to our churches and the streets of our towns and cities. “It seemed as though a volcano of repentance erupted, releasing pent up stresses of unforgiveness and animosity, and was now spewing out a flowing lava of tears, reconciliation, and forgiveness. Hardened hearts were becoming broken and softened… many wept openly, wrapping their arms around each other, praying for each other… others began to sing or worship, while some rejoiced with expressions of laughter and praise. So moved were many visitors, that dozens came to the altars to repent for their own sins. Teens and children who had never seen weeping from their parents, were so broken that they also went to their knees before the Lord. Scores of folks were now strewn about the sanctuary in a posture of prayer or worship. The altars were jammed, with no room left… others knelt at their seats… some were lying prostrate on the floor… many stood with their hands upraised, weeping, and praising God…Souls were getting saved in significant numbers. Many marriages will be healed, families will be reunited, drunks will become sober, liars will quit lying, thieves will stop stealing – lives were being changed.” Genuine revival in the church will change everything! Nations will be awakened, and the culture transformed.
Not only is revival abundantly worthwhile, but sadly, without such spiritual renewal, many churches will end up withering away or closing their doors. Without national revival, to bring lives back to the foundational principles of God by which it prospered, we will inevitably face a swift and unpleasant demise. A spiritual awakening is something that only God can do… but we can help establish the necessary conditions. It will require much sacrificial prayer, a faithfulness to proclaim the counter-cultural truths and high ideals of God’s Word, a willingness to die to our personal wants and preferences, and obedience to humble ourselves to His will and desires. It will be challenging (we may even face persecution) but not nearly as much as it will be if we choose to ignore the need and continue business and usual.
Take time to reflect on the new expectations in the words of Tim Dudley Smyth’s hymn, “Lord of the church, we pray for our renewing”. Pray for the Lord to raise our expectations of revival across Ireland.